Parshas Sh’lach – The Spies’ Mistake

By Shalom Olensky


This week in the Torah:

Standing near the border of the Promised Land, Moses sends spies to scout out the land to see its strengths and weaknesses. The spies return, reporting their own mistaken conclusion that the land is too strong for the Jews to conquer–even, said they, with G-d’s help (!). The Jews are frightened, and G-d decrees that they remain in the desert for another 40 years before conquering the land.


How could they doubt G-d’s capability when they had all seen the colossal miracles G-d did for them in the desert (e.g., Manna, water from a rock, the Clouds of Glory which surrounded them and guarded them) and in and against Egypt ( e.g., the ten plagues and the splitting of the sea)?


The spies were operating from a spiritual perspective. They were used to life in the spiritual habitat that G-d had made for them in the desert. Those miracles mentioned above completely freed the Jews in the desert from having to deal with physical worries or pursuits.

The spies felt that this was a life of the supernatural. In Israel, where they would have to deal with nature by order of G-d, the spies felt that G-d would not want to have supernatural Providence exist within a natural setting.

This was a mistake, for that was G-d’s whole purpose behind giving them a life of supernatural ease in the desert – as a preparation for entering the land and having the supernatural mix with nature, thereby defying the limitations of both nature and the supernatural (which is intrinsically limited to being supernatural).


  1. Regarding the concern that dealing with the physical has the potential to drive a person away from spirituality, the above teaches that if one’s physical pursuits are for the sake of G-d’s ways, G-d not only can make one successful both spiritually and physically, but indeed this is the whole purpose of creation; wherein G-d desired that man make for Him a G-dly “home” within the mundane.
  2. The same applies to hesitation from helping another Jew come closer to Torah-true Judaism. One need not worry that one will fall into haughtiness over one’s influential position in reaching out, for by doing it for G-d, G-d will keep the mentor humble.
  3. One should not limit one’s outreach to those within one’s personality range. Rather, even those that are far below, one must do them the favor of spiritual assistance.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 4, Sh’lach)


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